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7 Questions with Inna Kuznetsova
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7 Questions with Inna Kuznetsova
Name: Inna Kuznetsova
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: 1010data
Inna Kuznetsova is the CEO of 1010data, the leading provider of cross-enterprise data analytics tools. 1010data empowers customers to adjust their businesses to market evolutionary events and make better decisions through activating data. It provides a data-harmonization and a granular time-series data analytics platform for large amounts of data. It enables fast implementation of retail analytics and data sharing between a retailer and CPG supplier community, as well as alternative data solutions for Retail, CPG and Financial industry. 1010data is considered the partner of choice by Dollar General, Sam’s Club, Rite Aid, Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and JP Morgan and other top retail, CPG and financial companies. Implementing a robust data analytics platform with predictive signals is the first step the enterprises take on their journey to become AI-enabled businesses.
Until its acquisition by E2open in 2018, Inna was the President and Chief Operating Officer of INTTRA the largest digital network and analytics provider for the ocean shipping industry, processing over a quarter of containers in global trade. Prior to joining INTTRA Inna was the Chief Commercial Officer of CEVA Logistics and before that, the global VP, Marketing & Sales, Systems Software at IBM where she spent 19 years in a variety of global roles.
In addition to her executive roles Inna is an active Independent Non-Executive Director committed to strong corporate governance and trusted advisor to CEOs and boards on innovation, accelerated revenue growth, high-performance sales organizations, transition to the cloud and international business. She currently serves on board of Global Ports Investments Plc (LSE: GLPR), which operates container terminals in the Baltic and Far East basins, where she chairs the Nomination and Remuneration committee. Her prior boards include Sage (LSE: SGE), the top software company on FTSE100 list providing small and medium sized organizations with business management software and Avantida, a privately-owned SaaS company in Belgium.
Inna completed her MS and Ph.D. study in mathematics at the Moscow State University and MBA in Columbia Business School. She is a frequent speaker on technology-driven innovation and an author of two best selling career books in Russia.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Evolving our business during the prolonged time of the healthcare and social crisis - driving the improvements in performance and shifts in strategy while being acutely aware of burnouts and pressures of daily life on our team members
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have been focused for the most of my life on returning businesses to growth or fast scale up - creating value in a fast-pace environment. I built my expertise in a public company environment, spending 19 years at IBM, where I eventually became the first global VP of Russian origin. However, I was recruited into a totally different industry and environment - a struggling $9B logistics company - to turn around its sales organization. And it opened me to a much faster-paced privately owned business and an opportunity to make an impact faster. After spending a few years in logistics I missed Software, so I came back to the IT industry as the President & COO of INTTRA, a SaaS portal for ocean shipping. After the successful sale of the company I joined 1010data and shortly became the CEO of the company in the midst of COVID crisis.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I do not think my day is any different from the days of most of my peers - many hours of zoom meetings connecting to the team, our customers and investors from early in the morning till late at night, having dinner with my husband, sometimes cooking together; exercising and reading in the evening if I get time. We talk on the phone with my daughter who lives and works on the other coast and my Mom across the ocean. When you spend so much time online for work, it takes an effort to do the same with friends, so with a few exceptions we mostly stay in touch through the social media.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
One of the great lessons I learned recently is the power of apology. If you push yourself and your team too hard, people start feeling a burnout, sometimes saying 'I am so sorry I pushed you to hard on this, please choose your own pace' goes a long way and helps to restore the engagement
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
This year I found myself facing a very difficult and unfair situation that one of our partners put us in. At that time I happened to read a wonderful book by Ryan Holliday called 'Obstacle is the way' about the modern interpretation of the Greek philosophy of stoicism. It teaches you to avoid feeling like a victim and seeing an obstacle as a reason to find a better solution for your problem. In my case I decided to form a new, somewhat unpredictable alliance with a competitor and partner in areas where we could create value for the customers together - and help each other - while fencing off the other areas where we compete.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Large or small, you always need to focus on the big picture and strategic directions for the company; build a strong leadership team - it takes different skills and backgrounds to succeed, nobody is strong enough alone; communicate as much as possible - and then some more - to ensure that the team shares your direction and ideas; be open to feedback and thoughts, give others room to execute on their vision and suggestions.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Not every customer is a good deal. When I was running sales for a large company we won a special bid that took a lot of effort from the team. However, during the contract negotiations, the customer insisted on conditions that made our CFO strongly advise us to pass. We needed new business, I was personally vested in the win and I insisted on taking it - and ended up with a very non-profitable account. No matter how much you want to show a higher top-number, sometimes the best deal is the one that walks away from.